Why JK Rowling’s Pseudonym Secret Is a Great Lesson for Authors

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that detective novel “The Cuckoo’s Calling” by Robert Galbraith was actually written by J.K. Rowling. Rowling posed as a retired military policeman to publish her book and get some honest feedback without the hype and expectation. This isn’t the first time Rowling used a pen name; she published the Harry Potter books under the initials “J.K.” because her publishers feared that young boys would not want to read books written by a woman.

The ruse worked: at least one editor has admitted to snubbing “Cuckoo’s Calling” without knowing it was written by J.K. Rowling. Whoops! And although the book sold only 1,500 copies in the U.K. and 1,800 in the U.S., it garnered some positive reviews by critics. After the rumor began circulating on Twitter about a novel that had the same agent and editor as “The Casual Vacancy,” “Cuckoo’s Calling” shot up to No. 1 on the Amazon bestseller list.

Personally, I love that J.K. Rowling was unmasked as the author of “Cuckoo’s Calling.”

Why? Because writers write, and it’s awesome to think about all my favorite authors sending their books out into the world under other names. It’s good to know they don’t stop writing.

I think many people look at authors who have seen such wild success and think, “Well, they can just retire. They never have to write again!” While early retirement may work for people who make their millions (or billions, in Rowling’s case) in the stock market, that doesn’t really work for authors.

A huge success doesn’t mean it’s time to hang up your hat and never write again. Most people will never experience a smash hit like “Harry Potter,” but some of today’s most commercially successful authors, like Stephen King, remain successful because they are prolific.

If you ask me, writers don’t ever really retire. While they may not publish any more books under their own name, real writers keep writing. Like the Night’s Watch, it’s for life.